Friday, December 19, 2014

The Redmonds as gateways to poets

Treasure Redmond and her dad Eugene Redmond after a reading in St. Louis, February 2011

Hang out with Eugene B. Redmond or Treasure Shields Redmond for more than a few seconds, and they'll start introducing you to poets. The elder Redmond will introduce you to histories of poets you hadn't heard enough about, and the younger Redmond introduces you to emergent poets who haven't become fully established yet.

I first met Treasure Redmond, let's see, about 18 years ago. I was a first-year student at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. I traveled across town to attend a poetry reading at Jackson State University (JSU); the event was hosted/organized by a sister-poet named "Treasure." The "reading" included poets, rappers, singers, and instrumentalists. There was a dj and a band.

DJ Needles of St. Louis provides music at one of Treasure's poetry reading, April 2013.
At the end of the show, someone introduced a group of my Tougaloo classmates and me to the lead organizer. "Hi, I'm Treasure," she said. She started talking to us, and soon she was introducing us to various JSU poets.

Back then, as an undergrad, I didn't make the connection between the poet Treasure and the author of Drumvoices, which I began reading during my time at Tougaloo. In fact, I didn't make the connection until 2003 when I started working at SIUE and Professor Redmond mentioned his daughter, Treasure, just in passing.

"Hold up" I interrupted, "That Treasure, is your daughter?!?"

By the time I met Professor Redmond, I was completing my dissertation on the Black Arts Movement. But you want to talk about a paradigm expansion, I mean a serious paradigm expansion. Almost immediately, he started making me aware of poets I had never heard of, and at the same time, he hipped me to back stories on poets I had been studying. He greatly deepened my knowledge of Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Quincy Troupe, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, and many more.

Over the years, Professor Redmond was introducing me to the works of the many poets he had published and was publishing in his magazine Drumvoices Revue. We're talking hundreds of poets. He actively published poets from countries in Africa, especially Nigeria.

Redmond with young Nigerian writers in Ibadan, May 2004.

During the summer of 2004, Professor Redmond and I traveled to Nigeria together to do summer advising for literature students at the University of Ibadan. On multiple occasions, I'd witness Professor Redmond introducing young Nigeria poets to Nigerian and various other African poets that they were previously unfamiliar.    

When Treasure moved to St. Louis, she started making moves on the arts scenes, and she also organized gatherings at her home. I first became aware of poets Rickey Laurentiis and Phillip B. Williams. I was familiar with Jericho Brown's poetry, but Treasure made the formal introduction.

Toward the end of the summer, I attended a gathering at Treasure's home. When I arrived Professor Redmond was inside, and, as usual, he soon began discussing poetry and poets with me. Treasure eventually interrupted our conversation so I could meet some of the people sitting outside. "Come on," she said, "I got some poets I want you to meet."    

Eugene B. Redmond
Treasure Shields Redmond 

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